Out of the main pillars of financial wellness—earn, save, spend, invest, and protect—investing can oftentimes feel like the scary, unknown thing lurking in the closet. Being frugal, creating a spending plan, and buying insurance seem to operate within the warm, fuzzy confines of familiarity and safety.
But investing? It can feel like you’re staring into a vortex of ambiguity. For starters, there’s a host of complex concepts and perplexing jargon to get your head around. Of course, there’s the volatility and risk involved. Plus, it may seem like you need to be a regular ole’ moneybags to have the funds to invest in the first place.
All that aside, you know full well how important it is to invest—regardless of whatever craziness is going on with the market. By investing, your money can grow, and you can ultimately build wealth in the long term.
Don’t let the fact that you’re not flush with cash deter you from dipping your toes in. With all the investing platforms and apps in existence, it’s certainly doable to invest with just a bit of cash.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how to invest in stocks and go over a few different ways you can start investing with a hundred bucks or less. Read from start to finish for all the tips and tricks, or skip to the section you’re most interested in by clicking on the corresponding link below:
- How much money do you need to start investing?
- How do I get started investing in stocks?
- When to start investing money into the market?
How much money do you need to start investing?
When it comes to investing, there’s really no minimum amount that you need to get started. Through online trading and mobile investment apps, you could technically start investing with just a few dollars. However, if you start out with a larger sum of money—say a few hundred dollars, or even a few thousand—you’ll have more flexibility in terms of the investments you’re able to make, and you’ll likely see greater returns (or, on the other hand, greater losses).
If you need help determining what a good starting investment amount is for yourself, try using Mint’s free investment calculator. Simply enter a few key figures, and our investment calculator will estimate the growth of your investment over time, which can help you in creating a successful investment strategy.
How do I get started investing in stocks?
It’s easier than you think to get started with investing. While investment management firms were once seen as the traditional route for investing in stocks, that is by no means your only option anymore. In fact, investment management firms and stock brokerages often aren’t the best options for beginner investors, as it typically takes more money to start a portfolio with these firms, and there are all sorts of fees involved. To get started investing on a budget, here are a few different routes you might take.
#1: Use an app to start investing with little money
There are a number of apps out there that you can use for investing. And the good news is that many of these apps cater to people who are just getting started investing, as well as casual investors who want to make investments using an accessible, easy-to-use platform. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the best investment apps for beginners and go over some of the advantages they offer.
Best investment apps for beginners
With micro-investing apps such as Acorns and Stash, you can open an account with as little as $5. Acorns will round up transactions from your linked bank and credit card accounts and invest the change. After answering a series of questions, such as your risk tolerance and investment time horizon, Acorns will recommend one of five portfolios, ranging from conservative to aggressive.
Their diversified portfolios are made up of ETFs. An ETF is a “basket” of securities—think bonds, stocks, real estate. ETFs are traded like stocks on exchanges and track a widely followed index, such as the S&P 500 or Dow Jones.
Like Acorns, Stash also gives you the option to invest in one of its portfolios. But you can also create your own portfolio with a mix of ETFs and fractional shares of individual stocks.
The fees for both Acorns and Stash are the same: $1 a month for accounts under $5,000. Once you hit $5,000 in your account, the fee is 0.25% of your investments or assets under management.
#2: Select a robo-advisor to invest your money at low cost
Robo-advisors use algorithms and technology to create and manage your investment portfolios. While they’re touted for their diversified portfolios and lower fees, on the flipside, robo-advisors offer a more automated, less personalized touch.
The beauty of robo-advisors? You don’t end up having to pay the multitude of fees that you would at an investment company. With a robo-advisor, there are typically no minimum investments, no commissions, and no trade fees. While you can get started with just a bit of cash, the portfolio management fees are as follows: Betterment charges 0.25 percent annually for its digital plan, and Wealthsimple charges 0.5 percent for accounts with $100,000 or less.
#3: Open a retirement account with good investment for beginners
Making contributions through a workplace retirement plan can be a safe and reliable way to build an investment portfolio. Common employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k), shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s an easy way to invest pre-tax dollars toward your nest egg.
One of the benefits of an employer-sponsored retirement plan is that your employer has a fiduciary duty to manage your investment account responsibly and consider your interests when making decisions on your behalf. This should provide you with an added sense of security and peace of mind knowing that your employer has a legal obligation to take good care of your investments.
In the case that your workplace does offer a 401(k) or another type of retirement account, see if you can start contributing just a small percentage of your income, and go from there. If your employer offers to match contributions, even better. If you can swing it, contribute enough to get the full match. Otherwise, that’s just money you’re leaving on the table.
Plus, these retirement plans also limit the number of investment options that you can choose from, explains Dwight Dettloff, a CPA and CFP® of Winding Tail Financial. In turn, you won’t be suffering from decision paralysis and spend far too much of your precious time researching thousands of alternatives.
#4: Try a free platform to get started investing at no cost
You can get started on some investing platforms without spending a penny upfront. Yup, you heard that correctly. Popular stock investing platforms like Robinhood and M1 Finance don’t charge any commissions on trading.
And while M1 Finance is technically a robo-advisor, you can also make trades on the platform. Besides pre-made portfolios, you can also create a customized portfolio. You’ll need $100 minimum to start trading on M1 Finance, plus there are no annual portfolio management fees.
If you’re curious about investing on either platform, Robinhood is better for active traders as you can trade throughout the day, explains Samuel Wieser, CEO and investment advisor representative of Northman Financial.
On the other hand, as M1 Finance only enables you to make trades once a day, it’s better for long-term, buy-and-hold investors. Wieser adds that while you’re looking at no trading fees, a downside is that the trading and research tools are limited on both platforms.
#5: Save up so you have a larger chunk of money to invest
While there are plenty of investment options to get started for just a few bucks, sometimes you might want to wait until you can shore up more funds to invest through a discount stock brokerage. After all, there are a lot of benefits to investing through one of these brokerages, explains Wieser.
For instance, some of the larger ones give you the option to talk to someone on the phone or step into a brick and mortar location for help and guidance. Plus, they’ve been around for decades, and many have extensive trading and research tools available to investors, no matter the size of their portfolio.
“While each offers commission free-vehicles (typically ETFs), investors who want to make many trades or simply plan on investing a small amount every month will likely end up paying commission fees on at least some of their trades,” explains Wieser.
Even at the most discounted brokerages, you are going to pay $4.95 per transaction, points out Adam Beaty, a certified financial planner of Bullogic Wealth. That adds up to $9.90 just to buy and sell the position, which means you need a 10 percent gain just to break even.
“Obviously, it’s going to be very hard to make money this way,” says Beatty. “It would probably be best to move this money to a brokerage, but not invest it until you build it up. If you can put together a couple of hundred, you’re already doing better.”
As you can see, even if you don’t have a ton of money, you won’t be hard-pressed to find options to get started investing. But with any financial decision, research the costs and fees, take a look at the risks and your comfort level with risk. It’s also important to know your budget, goals, and timeframe for investing.
When to start investing money into the market
As far as investing goes, the sooner you get started, the better. When you start investing at a younger age, you give your investment more time to grow and mature. One of the most significant benefits of investing early is that you can capitalize on compound interest.
Compound interest is when the principal amount you invest generates interest, resulting in a larger sum, which in turn leads to even more interest. Essentially, you’re earning interest on reinvested interest. And, over time, compound interest can create a snowball effect, leading to exponential growth.
However, before you begin investing money into the market, it’s important to determine your limits and set boundaries. Any investment carries some amount of risk, and it’s possible that you’ll end up losing money. Thus, it’s important to keep up with all of your investments and monitor their performance. Use Mint’s investment tracking software to help you keep a close eye on your investment portfolio, stay on top of your finances, and avoid investing mistakes.
Although it may seem difficult at first to get started with investing, it doesn’t have to be. There are so many different paths you can take—and just because you take one route doesn’t mean you have to neglect the others. Ultimately, a combination of the above investment methods is likely the best idea. For example, you could take advantage of an employer-sponsored retirement account while at the same time making your own investments through an app or another investment platform. Just remember to be smart, come up with an investment strategy, and set limits for yourself.